1. Great win for the Cougars! Any win against SMC is good. Any win against SMC in Moraga is a great win. It was an ugly game in many ways, but finally, in the last 10 minutes, BYU matched and then exceeded St Mary’s intensity and assertiveness. That made all the difference.
2. Averette is a head-scratching player. He has made some of the biggest plays of the season for the Cougars. He seems to come up big at the biggest moments. He played great the last 5 or 6 minutes of this one. But earlier in the game he looked terrible and out of control on several drives into the paint. Several times it even looked like he was about to fall down. But in the end, he played a huge role in getting this victory.
3. George had a big positive impact on this game. His defense, his muscling the ball inside for a couple of baskets. His energy. His fearlessness. Yes, he does sometimes look a bit lost, and sometimes makes a play that shows his relative inexperience. But BYU desperately needs what he brings. He’s a difference maker.
4. Barcello has to play a lot of minutes for this team to be successful. The team is much better when he’s on the floor. He always plays hard and generally under control. He brings a much needed calmness to the players on the floor. He had 14 points tonight on 6/10 shooting and 2/2 from the FT line. They’ve got to figure out how to get Barcello more shots. He could be a bit more aggressive looking to score, but they need to run more plays for him.
5. Harward. He always plays hard. He was getting mugged all game and getting almost no calls. But he played with energy, even diving on the floor when needed. He needs to not shoot 3s When he gets the ball inside he needs to be looking for the open man outside. Sometimes he needs to pass out and repost. No doubt he’s a big, tough, physical presence inside. BYU needs that.
6. Like most of you, I was surprised to see Knell in the starting lineup. He didn’t do much for much of the game. But when the game was on the line and BYU was making their run, he made a couple of really big baskets. He is looking like he’s one player on the team who is not afraid of the big moment. I’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive looking for his shot.
7. Lohner only scored 4 points, but he got 9 rebounds in just 21 minutes. And he was 2/2 from the FT line. He, too, was fouled all night and rarely got a call. It will be fun to watch him continue to develop.
8. I still believe Harding is a good player and will play an important role on this team. Hopefully, coming off the bench will take some pressure off and he will find his game. He has a track record of being a good shooter and a good defender. I’m confident we’ll see more of those things in the games to come.
9. Haarms is a bit of a mystery to me. At times he had a huge impact on the game defensively. But other times opponents drove right around him for layups. The flop when he tried to take a charge made him look weak and silly. And SMC got an easy basket because of it. And he needs to stop shooting 3s. He was 0-3 from outside tonight. But he still got 9 points and 4 rebounds. I saw where someone was wondering whether BYU played better when Haarms wasn’t on the floor. I think he is a key component of this, but is still figuring out where he fits in.
10. Lee always plays hard and had 6 rebounds in 17 minutes. He’s not a star, and he won’t typically get a ton of minutes but he’s needed on this team, both on and off the court.
11. Just a quick note about Johnson. He may be the smoothest and most polished ball handler on the team. Several times tonight he looked like he could have forced the issue and taken the ball inside, but he just kept the ball outside and looked for Barcello. Physically forcing the issue is a big key against teams like St Mary’s. Johnson needs to be a little more selfish.
12. Several times, especially when BYU bigs were shooting 3s, there were no Cougar players under the basket. Seems like BYU got very few offensive rebounds.
13. You know WCC conference play is in full swing when officiating becomes a big CB topic of discussion. I didn’t mind that, overall, the zebras let the teams play. I’d rather see that then a constant parade to the FT line. But they were terribly inconsistent. Frequently a BYU player would be mugged (most notably Harward and Lohner) with no foul called, and then on the other end a BYU player would get whistled for a phantom or really ticky tack foul. All I’m looking for is consistency on both ends of the floor. We didn’t see that tonight. And I’d like to see Pope work the refs more. A couple of calls on BYU players (and no calls on the SMC players) were horrific.
14. I’m at the point in my BYU fandom where I enjoy victories over SMC more than just about any other team. I’m glad the Cougars were able to get things together at the end and pull this one out. They are really missing Jordan Ford this year. He was always a huge thorn in BYU’s side.
15. BYU only had 6 assists in this game, which is concerning, but they also only had 8 turnovers, which is a positive.
16. I know the game play was to get the ball inside, but BYU has got to figure out how to get more 3-point shots. And it would be best if 2/3 of those shots didn’t come from your 3 big guys.
17. On to San Francisco, which will be a really tough game. Go Cougars!